Feb. 28, was the last day at work of Ms Goddes Hope Libiran, the Department of Transportation’s former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Commuter Affairs.
In her capacity as the voice of the department, she made sure that its policies, directives and orders were communicated to the common person as efficiently and as clearly as possible. Using both traditional and evolving digital channels, she was the face that people saw on the ground, documenting and enforcing the mandates of the DOTr.
On social media, she defended her department, and her boss Secretary Art Tugade, with great aplomb. She was so good at her job that at times, it seemed the department and its vivacious leader could do no wrong. I first took notice of her work when she invited fellow Motoring journalists to a demonstration ride on the newly established Edsa Carousel service in July of 2020.
With the press in tow, she and key department officials rode on a bus that drove through the then newly cordoned inner lane of Edsa. The message was to show that the concrete barriers had enough space for a bus to go through and that the new exclusive bus lane delivered faster travel times for commuters. On that same day, I was on another bus that headed the same way, trying out the Edsa Carousel for a column I was supposed to write. Unfortunately, she later found out that she was exposed to a COVID-positive individual and had to inform the press who were with her in the bus ride in the “spirit of transparency.” She would later inform the journalists that she became COVID-positive. I thought I was lucky I did not know about the field trip, and that I did not join it.
To say that this was a PR disaster, especially at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, was an understatement. And yet through it all, she remained professional and accessible to the public. She held her head up high and continued to perform her role even in isolation.
I recall a post of hers on Facebook back in August 2020 where she seemingly took a dig at a few bashers of the department for making her an object of ridicule and a target of hate messages. She mentioned “self-entitled brats, instant philosophers, self-proclaimed lawyers and scientists (nag-a-adjust and propesyon nila sa isyung pinag-uusapan)” as her most notable detractors. I honestly felt alluded to as it was during these times that I was critical with the Department’s lack of planning and shoot from the hip dictates.
And yet, she, as with the rest of the department, kept focused on their mission to deliver service to the riding public. Her job was in fact to defend the department from negative perception and misinformation. But she took it a bit further to defend and build up the Secretary every chance she got. And to the discerning, this smelled like an election attempt brewing.
From the card tapping payment for bus riders, to the RFID mess, and even to the PMVIC controversy, Libiran put a brave face on social media to address the department’s critics. Me included. It even became a running joke among my circle of friends and fellow journalists that my stories would trigger Libiran or even Secretary Tugade. To which I replied, “I doubt they even read my columns.” At one point, I even sent a private message on her official Facebook account asking for details about the RFID implementation on our tollways for a story I was writing. This was never seen nor replied to.
Then in January this year, I wrote about how flawed the DOTr’s “No Vaccine, No Ride” policy was. But I also noted how the DOTr had a penchant for implementing the unimplementable, which seemed to be its trademark this past six years. For both good and bad reasons, the department at least had the willpower to implement programs it saw would benefit the most number of people the most. And Libiran was at the forefront of this stand, as she had to soak in all the negatrons that prevailed on social media and the press. I thought, another critical rant done and dusted. No one in the department would read it anyway. That is until Libiran messaged me on Viber about it.
To be clear, I never had her number saved in my contacts list, even though she was part of the department’s Transportation Viber group I was in. “Thank you for the great article, Sir,” she wrote. And I told her I had an idea of how the department’s people, including her and Secretary Tugade, might feel whenever they read criticisms of their work. I also added that they should keep doing what is right for the people, no matter what critics like me say. Graciously, Libiran clarified that they always appreciate feedback. To which I felt a sense of peace.
Libiran would tender her resignation 10 days after that exchange. She then confirmed it on social media citing that she would finally prioritize her family and become the mother her only child deserved. Hers is a story of how in a land of critics and naysayers infused with crab mentality, even the best can succumb to pressure. Of how one’s efforts in an already thankless job may never be good enough.
And yet, it also shows how the belief in doing what is right can fuel one’s dedication even through a quagmire of hate and discord. The Department of Transportation under Secretary Tugade, and seconded by Assec Libiran, has done a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong. But in the end, at least it has done many things that previous administrations did not have the stomach and the political will to push through.
And that is something both personalities can proudly lay claim to in the years to come.
Photo lifted from Goddes Libiran’s facebook account
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.